About the author: Hampton Myers is a Lafayette native, petrophysicist for Shell Oil, and schemer. He is currently writing a fantasy novel called Nation States. He also advises the brilliant Alessandra Nolting on her project to destroy all barriers between authors and readers. http://atlasmvp.
When I walked through the Hyatt Regency’s 2nd floor lobby on my way to the 2014 New Orleans Destination Hackathon, I saw teams practicing their pitches, and it struck me: New Orleans and tech go together like Abita and crawfish. Everyone was clearly intelligent, talented, but most of all passionate. The ideals of self expression, cultural identity, and city pride were palpable. The scene represented NOLA perfectly. The room was a true melting pot. I saw piercings, mohawks, flannel, blazers, and varsity jackets alike. You could hear contestants and teams discussing how awesome it would be if their ideas could actually help the local economy. This was no ordinary conference.
If you’re unfamiliar with hackathons, they’re one of those modern curiosities, like a game jam or project song, in which teams of young programmers hook up, go to a room, and create something awesome in 48 hours. The participants alternate between drinks of water, coffee, and beer, until they emerge (usually sleep deprived), to deliver “The Big Pitch.”
And pitch they did. Team HereHear took home the grand prize with their app dedicated to streaming local musicians around the world. Team Bob the Bus (named after the 52businesses‘ big blue bus, named Bob), took the silver medal with Touracle, the AirBnB of tourism. I was astounded at the beautiful and completely functional iPhone app they made in 48 hours. Team Questour came in third place with their social, web-based tool to create scavenger hunts for travelers.
Everyone present used technology to make the life of the traveler better. Team Osewa made a platform for hotels to send text messages to their guests. Team Second Line made a site to share videos of the best 2nd line dancers. Park Here attacked the age-old problem of “where do I park in this city” with a parking reservation site. Team Living City sought to make travel tours dynamic and social. Team Kalefinder presented a Yelp-alternative that curates reviews by category.
My last hackathon was the NYC Publishing Hackathon, where I saw teams trying to imagine the future of books. Yes, it was inspiring, but we wore button up shirts and talked about the state of the industry. In New Orleans, I wore a hoodie and my jogging shorts, but I was not underdressed. People at Destination Hackathon cared about their vision, and when the judges grilled them about their monetization strategies, it was clear they’d get to that part later. The nerds won, Labowski, and they’re hacking the world.